How Social Media Has Changed 6PM in America

I‘m Ron Burgundy. Stay classy, San Diego.

 

A line from Will Ferrell’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and a comedic take on the 6PM local news anchor’s trademark nightly sign off. Perhaps the reason this movie played so well to the “children of the 80s” demographic was because most of us grew up with our own local Ron Burgundy.

My childhood Monday through Friday routine was systematic. A 7AM wake up, followed by school prep and breakfast while watching G.I.Joe, Transformers, and the first 10 minutes of Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? before heading to the end of the driveway to wait for the school bus. Arrive home from school at 4PM, just enough of a window to log some play time before my parents got home from work around 5:30PM. By 6PM we were parked at the dinner table, and the local news was on.

As crucial as it was for me to meet my 4PM play time obligations, the 6PM local news was as indispensable to my parents. What they had read in that morning’s newspaper over their coffee and a bowl of Post Toasties was outdated by now. The local nightly newscast was the only means of staying informed and in touch with society.

Everyone had their preferred network when it came to newscasts. After inviting these personalities into our homes at the most intimate of hours everyday for so many years, we felt like we knew them personally. I’m not sure if it was because our cousin worked at the station, or if it was Don Alhart’s salient presence and durable jaw-line that roped us in, but the local ABC affiliate was my family’s newscast of choice. We, like most households, never deviated. There was a certain monogamy that pertained to a family’s relationship with their local news team. There was a level of trust there. You didn’t cheat. It wouldn’t feel right. Everyone would know.

Some news days are slower than others, but when the clock hit 6:30PM and your local anchor bid farewell for the night with their trademark sign off, you just knew everything was going to be allright for another day. You’d see them again tomorrow at the same time, and they’d regale you with a story about an errant deer running the halls of the local community college, or a ne’er do well burglar who got stuck in a chimney while entering their targeted house.

Since then, things have changed. While idiot burglars are still undoubtedly getting stuck in chimneys, the way we find out about it is drastically different. Instead of the whole community finding out about it at 6:28 pm (at long last, after teasers at 5PM, 5:30PM, 5:55PM, and before every commercial break during the 6PM newscast – COME ON! I just wanna see the burglar chimney story! That guy is so dumb! I instantly feel better about my life!), individual citizens now have access to news stories all throughout the day. We don’t need to be in front of a TV anymore to learn about the news, and it doesn’t need to be 6PM.

Based on this change, it would seem that our connections with our favorite and trusted news anchors would be severed, our relationships no longer as intimate. In fact, the opposite is true. In the 1980s & 90s, when we invited these anchors into our homes every evening, did we really ever get to know them?

It would seem that our connections with our favorite and trusted news anchors would be severed, our relationships no longer as intimate. In fact, the opposite is true.

Besides an occasional anecdotal quip, did we get any insight into their sense of humor, their lifestyle, or their background? More importantly, did we ever get to interact with them? The answer is no. Sure, to this day when I’m home alone I’ll turn on the TV just to feel like someone is there with me, but in reality it is a one-way relationship. We could talk to our TVs until we were blue in the face, and get nothing in return. Now, we have unprecedented access to our favorite news anchors and reporters.

Most local news anchors who have Twitter accounts will at minimum tweet local news alerts or links to breaking stories. The good ones keep their followers posted on all of the day’s developments. The great ones interact with their followers. They answer questions, they comment on others’ tweets, they talk about life outside of the news. The people of Myrtle Beach, SC are lucky to have one of the great ones.

Paula Caruso graduated from Central Michigan University and had experience in Detroit, Illinois, and Ohio before landing in South Carolina. When I lived in Myrtle Beach, Caruso was one of the WMBF Morning anchors, and I enjoyed starting my day with their newscasts. I was glad to hear she had become a co-anchor on the 5 PM, 6PM & 11PM broadcasts, since she deserves as much exposure as possible. Caruso is a shining star in local news, and the sky is the limit for bright, charismatic, social-minded individuals like her. Besides her charming on screen personality, Caruso is informative and engaging on Twitter. Quick with a witty response, she is a pleasure to tweet with, a level of interaction which was never possible with our beloved anchors of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Twitter isn’t the only social media outlet that has changed society and how we stay informed, but it can be one of the most captivating and addictive. We used to have to wait all day for the opportunity to sit in on a one-way conversation. Today our news is on-demand and interactive, and the conversation goes on much before and well after 6PM.

Follow @PaulaCaruso on Twitter, and if you are in the Myrtle Beach area, watch WMBF News!

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Howie Decker is the co-creator and editor of UnderScoopFIRE.com He likes fantasy baseball & taco night. His family & friends’ support for & contributions to his personal blog The Upper Deck were his inspiration to assemble this site. You can read his “Letter from the Editor” here.

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